Marfa ISD maintains ‘B’ accountability rating from the state 

MARFA — The Marfa Independent School District received a B accountability rating for 2022, according to recently released data from the Texas Education Agency, though its overall score fell from an 87 in 2019 to an 82 in 2022. 

Ratings were paused in 2020 and 2021 due to the state of disaster brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our ultimate goal for the last couple of years was to maintain as much as we could. To maintain our B status, not to drop to a C school,” said Superintendent Oscar Aguero of the results.

The accountability rating system was established by the Legislature in 2017 as a way to provide greater transparency and insight into academic performance of Texas schools for parents, teachers and community members. Ratings are based on students’ State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test performance, graduation rates, and college and career readiness, according to the TEA, and broken down into three main categories — “Student Achievement,” “School Progress,” and “Closing the Gaps.” 

In the student achievement category, which focuses on STAAR exam performance for grades 3-12, college and career readiness and graduation rate, the district earned a 72 or overall C rating — down from an 80 and overall B rating in 2019. Aguero said the district was using the new accountability ratings as a motivational tool going into the new school year for their administration and staff, who he said are being instructed to transition from a pandemic mindset and set goals of getting students on track to pass and achieve higher marks on STAAR testing. 

“We are now at the point that we believe that we cannot use COVID as an excuse, so that’s something we stress during our prep time before the year, meeting with teachers,” said Aguero. “These kids are where they are, we are where we are. There’s nothing that we can use as an excuse. We have to get better. We have to grow. We have to get back up.” 

MISD’s main success was in the school progress category, which jumped from a score of 82 in 2019 to 87 in 2022. School progress is based on STAAR reading and math scores measured from year to year and “relative performance,” or how well students are doing compared to schools with similar levels of economically disadvantaged students. 

“Economically disadvantaged” is defined by the percentage of students who utilize the free and reduced lunch program. Aguero said the district currently has 78% of its students classified as economically disadvantaged. Despite the overall higher rating in the school progress category, the relative performance component for MISD declined since 2019, but was ultimately “not rated.”  

“While we’re excited that we had growth, we know there’s still lots of room to keep growing and to keep pushing to have all these kids successful on this test,” said Aguero. “It’s a good motivation point for our teachers, our staff and the kids.”

The district earned a 71 or C rating in the closing the gaps category, down from 100 or an A rating in 2019. Closing the gaps assesses different student groups in a number of categories based on race, income level and special education to learn more about how students are performing across the board. 

Aguero attributed the decline to the district’s 2022 STAAR math scores for grades third through eighth, which he said the district was already aware of and working toward improving. 

This year, teacher Cheri Aguero, who previously served as an elementary teacher, is working with sixth through ninth graders on math instruction as the lower level grades will maintain their same teacher who joined the district just last year. Aguero said the district was working on pulling professional development resources for those two instructors. 

Per House Bill 4545, as of 2021 school districts are required to supply students with 30 additional instructional hours per STAAR subject failed. Junior High and High School Principal Luane Porter said the district is working to achieve that level of additional instructional time by incorporating tutoring into students’ daily schedules as opposed to asking students and teachers to be at school outside of regular hours. 

In terms of college and career readiness, the district is hoping to expand its career and technical education (CTE) programs, said Aguero, offering business certifications and more in addition to their existing welding course. 

Aguero said moving forward, the board of trustees, administrators and teachers are working toward getting on the same page about the need for better student outcomes. They plan to emphasize individualizing each student’s learning plan, while driving them to be self-motivated and invested in their education, said Aguero. And while STAAR test scores are just one measure of student achievement, the goal of leveling up instruction would positively impact their students overall, said Aguero. 

“We now have a total understanding and total commitment of what it’s gonna take to get our students scoring better. I hate that we have to look at it that way, but unfortunately that’s the game we play,” said Aguero. “But, them doing better on this test means there is better teaching, and overall, this is going to prep them for the future.”

TEA Accountability Ratings for schools in Texas are available online at TXSchools.gov. Informational videos for the general public about how these ratings are calculated are available at https://tea.texas.gov/about-tea/news-and-multimedia/audio-and-video/answers-in-about-a-minute-a-f-accountability.